Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Making Healthy After-School Snacks

One way to start your kids off in the kitchen is to teach them to make a few healthy after-school snacks. Most simple snacks are easy to make, which means your kids won't be overwhelmed by them. I think that's important in any teaching experience. You want your kids to be able to actually succeed at the cooking tasks you give them. In the beginning, that means the tasks need to be simple. Above all, they need to be fun.

Prepping your kitchen for the kids is a good idea, too. Clear a space on the counter or a table for them to work on. Sometimes I'll put things on the step stool so my littlest one can get in on the action. I just make sure I'm emotionally ready to clean up the mess, afterwards.

Getting your kids their own aprons can be fun, too. Please DO NOT put a frilly apron a young boy. Cooking is not a sexist activity and you want your kids to understand that. Putting a “girlie” apron on a young boy will drive him out of the kitchen.

The easiest after-school snack is probably fruit. Apples, especially. All the kids have to do is wash them. Bananas come in a close second. Instead of washing, you peel them. If you want to get a little more sophisticated, try a few of these:

Tortilla Wraps

Start with a wheat tortilla and add whatever you want. Peanut butter and jelly, lettuce with Ranch dressing, thinly sliced cheese and lunch meat, cucumber or carrot spears – whatever you like. Peanut butter and cheddar cheese is a favorite in my family. Peanut butter and bananas are tasty this way, too. Let your kids experiment with their own concoctions. After you add the filling, roll the tortilla up like a burrito, or just roll it up into a tube. The possibilities are endless!

Lettuce Wraps

Trying to cut down on the carbs? Show your kids how to roll up various fillings in a lettuce leaf, instead of a tortilla. Peanut butter may not be the best choice, here, but any number of cheeses will work great.

Microwave Quesadillas

Once the kids are old enough to handle the microwave, teach them to make simple quesadillas. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of a wheat tortilla and fold it in half. Pop it into the microwave on high for one minute. My kids love using the pizza cutter to cut it into smaller portions.

Bread Sticks with Spaghetti Sauce

Left over spaghetti sauce is a great after-school snack. Toast some bread, cut it into one inch thick strips (teach your kids to use a knife before you let them do this on their own) and dip them in the sauce straight from the refrigerator. If you want, let them heat the sauce in the microwave, first.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Variations

Peanut butter sandwiches are a staple for me and my kids. Even as an adult, I still love them. What's great about peanut butter is you can put almost anything with it and still make a great sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly is a classic, but so is peanut butter with sliced banana, apple, or raisins. Peanut butter and cheese is interesting. Another really fun sandwich is peanut butter and potato chips. Just spread the peanut butter onto a couple of slices of bread and sprinkle on some crushed potato chips before putting the two slices together.

Crackers and Stuff

Crackers are great topped with all kinds of things. Anything you can put on a sandwich can be put on a cracker. A favorite cracker topping at my house is cucumber slices and a dollop of cottage cheese.

Flies on a Log

My son came up with this when he was about twelve years old. Fill a celery stalk with peanut butter. Press raisins into the peanut butter all the way down the stalk like little “flies” sitting on a log.


This one I owe to my mom. Got leftover pancakes? Spread butter or peanut butter on them, add a little jam or sugar, and roll them up into little tubes. She claims this was the only way she could get me and my brothers to eat pancakes when we were little.

Getting your kids working with food doesn't have to be a chore. Start with a few simple after-school snacks. This can help your kids make healthy choices, and can get them excited about cooking more complex things, when they're ready.

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